Saint Valentinus

Okay, so most of us know Valentine’s Day as the day when either we (or our significant other) completely forgets about it until the actual day-of, and as a result, has to buy flowers at crazy inflated prices. Okay, maybe not all of us are this way, but I know it’s happened to me more than once! Lest we forget though, Valentine’s Day is actual Saint Valentine’s Day; few of us actually know the reason that it is truly celebrated (besides one of five days when the stock for Hallmark Cards really skyrockets).

The name “Valentine”, derived from valens (worthy, strong, powerful), was popular in Late Antiquity. The feast of St. Valentine was first established in 496 by Pope Gelasius I, who included Valentine among those “… whose names are justly reverenced among men, but whose acts are known only to God.” As Gelasius implied, nothing was known, even then, about the live of this  saint. In some circles, it is even believed that Valentine may represent many martyrs of the faith.

The first representation of Saint Valentine appeared in the Nuremberg Chronicle (1493). The text states that he was a Roman priest martyred during the reign of the Roman emporer Claudius II.  He was arrested and imprisoned upon being caught marrying Christian couples and otherwise aiding Christians who were at the time being persecuted by Claudius in Rome (helping Christians at this time was considered a crime due to worshiping anything other than the Emporer). Claudius took a liking to this prisoner – until Valentinus tried to convert him – whereupon this priest was condemned to death. He was beaten with clubs and stoned; when that failed to kill him, he was beheaded.

Now, I’m not trying to be a party-pooper, but this is quite a far cry from the current celebration of Valentine’s Day. I think it is important to remember the faith of our fathers, and how we as 21-century believers, got here. We have so much to be grateful for! It is precisely because of the early church’s resolve in the face of certain death that we have been able to benefit. Saint Irenaeus once said, “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church,” meaning that the faithful sacrifices of the saints is what causes the Church to grow.

In the midst of loving our spouses and significant others, may we be given over to our God. May we be passionate with our faith. And may we be thankful for the commitment of those that have gone before us.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” -Hebrews 12:1-2

With love,
Steven

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